While it is exceedingly unlikely that Colin Kaepernick will win his ongoing collusion grievance against the NFL and its owners, at the very least his grievance seems to be having a secondary effect on the league.
Namely, teams and owners seem deathly afraid of saying anything or taking any sort of moral stance on national anthem protests.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he would bench any player who disrespected the anthem in the midst of the regular season, but hasn’t made a peep since the Kaepernick collusion grievance. In fairness to Jones, he does have another legal matter on his plate as he faces a multimillion-dollar fine from the NFL.
The Houston Texans immediately had to nip a story in the bud after a report said the team was refusing to sign or draft any players who have participated in anthem protests, or were even likely to participate in the protests.
“A recent report that suggests the Houston Texans would not sign a player who has protested in support of social justice issues is categorically false and without merit,” the Texans said in a statement. “The Texans ownership, coaching, personnel and executive staff sign and hire employees based on talent, character and fit within our organization.”
The fear of any backlash from Kaepernick’s collusion grievance was palpable in the statement.
But while the Texans’ supposed aversion to anthem protesters was merely a report, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross came out on the issue much more forcefully.
“All of our players will be standing,” Ross said in an interview.
That comment was notable because the Dolphins had three players consistently take a knee throughout the season. Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas and Julius Thomas would routinely kneel away from the other Dolphins players as the national anthem played.
“Initially, I totally supported the players in what they were doing,” said Ross. “It’s America and people should be able to really speak about their choices.”
“When that message changed, and everybody was interpreting it as that was the reason, then I was against kneeling,” he said, referring to the view of President Donald Trump and many others that the protests are disrespectful to military and the American flag.
“I like Donald,” Ross said. “I don’t support everything that he says. Overall, I think he was trying to make a point, and his message became what kneeling was all about. From that standpoint, that is the way the public is interpreting it. So I think that’s really incumbent upon us to adopt that. That’s how, I think, the country now is interpreting the kneeling issue.”
From all indications, Ross seemed to understand that the act of kneeling during the national anthem was alienating far more people than it was recruiting. And as a team owner, Ross was well within his rights to have a standard behavioral expectation of his employees.
It didn’t take long for Ross to backtrack on his statements, however. The timing of it all is very suspicious as well. According to CBS Sports, Ross and the Dolphins issued a clarification and retraction just hours after being formally subpoenaed in the Kaepernick collusion grievance.
“I have no intention of forcing our players to stand during the anthem and I regret that my comments have been misconstrued,” Ross said in a statement online. “I care passionately that the message of social justice resonates far and wide and I will continue to support and fund efforts for those who fight for equality of all.”
Whether or not Ross’ comments will be supporting evidence in Kaepernick’s collusion grievance, the free agent quarterback will still have an uphill battle. Ross’ initial comments could be interpreted any number of ways, but it’s certainly not collusion. Kaepernick and his legal team have yet to provide the “smoking gun” that definitively shows that at least two owners were in direct communication with each other and collaboratively decided not to hire Kaepernick.
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